Sunday, March 18, 2012

Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang

1946. Daniel (Derek Ramsay) and Corazon (Erich Gonzales) have been married for five years but remain childless. After a two week devotion to San Gerardo as suggested by a quack doctor, she finally conceives but gives birth to a dead baby later on. She refuses to bury the infant, becomes mentally unstable, and eats the child. After that she disappears and begins to prey on the children of the village and is thus, branded as “demonyo - halimaw - aswang”.

This should not have been tagged as a horror film because it simply is not one. The few horror scenes in the second half are scary alright, but only because they are framed as such. Owing to the linear structure of the plot, there is no veil of mystery that could have effectively disguised this as supernatural, at least from the perspective of the audience. The townsfolk in the movie at least have the benefit of superstitious beliefs to help them believe their own horror stories. It is not the same case for us, though. Unfortunately, we get to know the truth in advance, which prevents us from getting scared because of the very knowledge that everything is just a plain misunderstanding.

Is Corazon really an “aswang” then? Figuratively, perhaps. If it were up to me I would actually just label Corazon as a cannibalistic predecessor of the modern-day "taong-grasa." The truth is, she is nothing else but a woman who has been forced to live in a socially unacceptable manner because of the harsh realities of life that she had to endure. Add the power of town gossip and hatred stemming from ignorance and you get your perfect tale that could be considered supernatural, at least during those times.

As the old man says in one of the scenes, the war has had such an effect that they themselves have resulted in creating their own demons. If the objective of the filmmaker is to give his own version on how the “aswang” folklore has developed in our history, then it could be said that he has succeeded to some extent, but not totally. Had that been the real intention, then it would have been better if they had just told the whole story the same way they did the first half of the movie. Seeing this film shift from period drama to horror seems really awkward and the audience’s laughter agrees. Had the story been narrated backwards, or at least the first and second halves had been switched, then this would have been a mild horror flick because the back story itself would suffice as a twist.

Erich Gonzales is perhaps the epitome of a barrio lass, and she can act too, which is a major plus. She even does the “aswang” scenes effectively, which could have been hilariously detrimental to the movie had it been done by a lesser actress. The only complaint is that in some scenes her makeup is very obvious. We are talking about a post-WWII rural girl here, and it is mainly because of that that those few scenes stand out in a rather inappropriate way. She also has this occasional bad habit of eating her words. Enunciate.

Derek Ramsay is okay although there are several scenes in which his acting seems quite odd, in particular in those scenes requiring some outburst of emotion. The pitch of his voice in these scenes seems a bit too high that in effect, it makes you laugh, and that does not seem to be right because the said scenes are supposed to move you in a dramatic way or something. Awkward.

I am not even sure if it is sepia but I just love the hues used in the cinematography. It has this certain effect that makes the movie feel dated, to some extent. Overall the film gives you a good glimpse of a bygone era that we often just get to read about in books, an era in which the lack of easy access to information greatly affected the lives of the people in it. It could have been a good period piece had it gotten rid of the horror scenes, which could have been shot in a way that would still give the audience a jolt, but without the theatrics typical of the horror genre.

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